I have been thinking recently about how we start new writing projects. Random ideas pop in our head, news articles get us thinking or we read a book and wonder what if something else happened there. Now multiple questions to get us thinking isn’t anything original, but at this time of year with spring and new starts around the corner, I wanted to take the idea a step further. I have written forty prompts in four sections- character, setting, plot and ending. They are designed with the idea of getting underway with a new larger project, say if you have an idea for a new novel but don’t know where to begin. You could answer one a day in detail, before getting started with your first draft. Or you could answer them quickly before writing a short piece. Or of course you could dip in and out as you want or need a bit of inspiration.
However you use them, I hope you enjoy!
1) Describe your characters earliest memory, using the first person and past tense.
2) Write about an event from your story which could be seen to echo the characters earliest memory. Use the present tense.
3) Describe your main characters partner, best friend, sibling, parent or pet. Describe their appearance, personality and any quirks.
4) Your character is in an emergency situation. What is the emergency? Where does it take place? How old are they? Who do they contact? Will they get out ok? Now write the scene.
5) Describe your characters first day in the job they currently do. If they don’t have a job, describe their first day out of work or their first attempt at a new hobby.
6) Your character needs to make a decision. Write a monologue from their perspective in which they discuss the decision to be made. At first they focus on something smaller and less important, until in the final section they reveal what it is that’s really bothering them.
7) Describe your character from the perspective of another character. Try to really use a unique voice, different to your main character, and include facts about your main character than only this person could know. Make sure to describe their appearance as well.
8) Describe the best day of your characters life in the third person.
9) Describe the worst day of your characters life, using mainly the senses of sound and smell.
10) What is your characters biggest secret and biggest fear? Write about them both separately and then see how they connect. Will this effect your story? Does this change how you view your character?
1) Stand outside of your characters house, describe what you can see, smell and hear before going inside and writing a tour of their home. Are they messy? Do they like colour? Who do they live with? Is their home permanent or temporary? Do they have pets?
2) Write about another place in your novel – your characters previous home, place of work, school, favourite shop, anywhere. You are going to write a brief history of this place. When was it built and why? Has it always been owned and used by the same people? When did your character first go there and why?
3) Search for information about the country or city where your story is set. Come up with five interesting facts and write a short piece using these facts in any way.
4) Your character is going on a journey. It could be as simple as their daily commute or it could be their first time on a plane or travelling back to their childhood home, whatever fits with your character. Write about the journey in detail.
5) Where is your characters favourite place to eat? Their favourite meal? Is it a rare treat or an ever day indulgence? Do they enjoy the same cakes as when they were a child? Describe in detail, beginning with the food being eaten and then describing the place where they are.
6) Describe your characters idea of the perfect night out. A bar, a restaurant, a walk in the park or a gig.
7) Where does your character do their best thinking?
8) Describe a secret place that your character goes to that their partner, parent or friend would not expect them to be. Then describe what happens when they are found there.
9) Is your character happy where they are? If so, why? If not, where would they prefer to be?
10) Describe one place that your character wishes to return to but can’t. Why can’t they go back? Will they ever be able to?
1) List five challenges your character faces, from small things to big things. Write a monologue using these challenges.
2) Write a conversation with another character in which they are trying to stop your main character from getting something.
3) Pick one of the places from the previous section and come up with three scenes that could happen in that one place. They could be days apart, years apart or even decades apart.
4) Something has gone wrong at your characters place of work, what is it? Describe this from a different characters perspective, perhaps their boss or a colleague or their partner listening to their day.
5) Use a series of diary entries to describe in highly colloquial language, the climax of your story. Is there a big reveal? A plot twist? A sudden murder? An argument? A discovery?
6) Choose a character who has only been so far mentioned in passing. They want something but your main character is getting in the way. Describe a conversation between them from this character who you don’t know as well.
7) Write an opening paragraph, from the middle of your plot line.
8) Write about a moment in which your character realises they have done something wrong.
9) Write the first paragraph of your first, fifth, tenth and final chapters, or for a play the stage directions for three random scenes.
10) Write three possible opening pages, up to five hundred words each.
1) Write three possible final paragraphs.
2)Write an alternative ending to the one you are expecting. If you have lots of time write an alternative final chapter, or write an alternative epilogue.
3)Write your final paragraphs from the perspective of a minor character, using first person and present tense.
4)Write a draft of your final chapter or scene, delete the final paragraph or five lines. How does this effect your ending? Does it improve it? Are you ending in the right place?
5) Write a prologue for your novel which hints at the ending but is very ambiguous, try to avoid even describing your main character in detail.
6) Write your final chapter as though a minor character is the protagonist.
7)Write your story in as few words as possible, as though it is a children’s book, beginning with Once Upon a Time and ending with They All Lived Happily Ever After – even if they don’t really. You should cover any major plot points and be able to see any holes or dips in action.
8) Write a newspaper article for the final part of your story. Be as detached as possible. Does this help you to see any problems with your plot? Is your story realistic? Even fantasy should feel believable to the reader.
9) Start with the climax of your story. Your character is in an impossible situation and has nowhere to go. How will you get them out? Start with bullet points and see if this changes your perception of your ending.
10) Write the final chapter or scene as a monologue from your protagonists perspective. Read through and pick out three phrases that you love, rewrite the chapter using these three lines as your focus. Aim to cut down on word count, perhaps creating a final moment, three paragraphs beginning with each of your favourite lines.
These prompts are of course meant to be a bit of fun, something you can use before embarking on the daunting journey of writing a whole novel or play. If you’re not really working on anything at the moment this might be a good place to start before planning, you can work out who your main character should be, where your plot is going and where your novel could end.
These prompts are all my own, but I am happy for them to be shared. I’ll be using them myself in the next few weeks and I’m sure I’ll be sharing one or two with you soon.
Let me know your favourite writing prompts and where you’re at with any projects in the comments.